Westminster HMO

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    Westminster HMO

    I wonder if someone could assist me as my son and two of his friends (who are a couple) recently moved into a two bed flat in Westminster. All was fine until the council decided to reclassify such an arrangement as an HMO which from August will need a licence. They have now been told that they will be served a S21 if one of them (likely to be my son) doesn't move out. The flat is not affordable for just the couple so it is likely all of them will have to leave. The tenancy does have a break clause so that is OK but I wondered if there was a legal way around this? Could the couple take the flat and (with consent) have my son as their lodger? I understand that a tenant can (with permission) have one lodger without the risk of turning the place into an HMO but I was unsure of the position if there were 2 tenants already?

    Any thoughts appreciated as I don't think he is overly keen to live at home again!

    #2
    A landlord (thanks to Thatcher's 1988 Housing Act) has a right to serve s21 for NO REASON AT ALL anyway.

    But many s21's are invalid due to the stupidity or laziness of landlords. So do nothing until landlord serves s21, then we'll see if it's valid or not.


    Check anyway Westminster HMO regs, - does Westminster understand they are couple??

    That the landlord may or may not have a problem with council over HMO license is landlord's problem, not tenant's problem. They should do nothing IMHO.
    I am legally unqualified: If you need to rely on advice check it with a suitable authority - eg a solicitor specialising in landlord/tenant law...

    Comment


      #3
      Thanks Artful. The S21 has not yet been served but it is on the cards. I checked the paperwork at the start of the tenancy and they had covered the formalities and they are a pretty well-known agent so I would be surprised if they make a mistake. I have told my son that the S21 does not end the tenancy so they will have extra breathing space if they want it. I have wasted nearly an entire morning trying to speak to someone at Westminster who can give me a definitive answer and my experience reassures me that even if no one ever bothers applying for a licence, then I stand more chance of winning the lottery than something like this ever being enforced by the council.

      Comment


        #4
        Originally posted by Goobs27 View Post
        They have now been told that they will be served a S21 if one of them (likely to be my son) doesn't move out. The flat is not affordable for just the couple so it is likely all of them will have to leave.
        if the tenancy began recently, it may be difficult for the landlord to serve a s21 notice.
        They can't serve it until after the 4th month of a tenancy, and it can't end the tenancy during the fixed term - although if there's a break clause they may be able to serve it after exercising that.

        The tenancy does have a break clause so that is OK but I wondered if there was a legal way around this? Could the couple take the flat and (with consent) have my son as their lodger? I understand that a tenant can (with permission) have one lodger without the risk of turning the place into an HMO but I was unsure of the position if there were 2 tenants already?
        Your understanding is not correct. Three or more people living in more than one household (which would include a couple and a lodger) creates a small HMO, and it is this category of HMO that Westminster has chosen to licence.

        They are a pretty well-known agent so I would be surprised if they make a mistake.
        ROFL.

        my experience reassures me that even if no one ever bothers applying for a licence, then I stand more chance of winning the lottery than something like this ever being enforced by the council.
        The local authority have decided to introduce the scheme and have to jump through quite a lot of hoops to introduce it, so there's a good chance of it being policed and enforced.

        The licence is £975, which I'd have thought that most landlords would pass on to their tenants as an increase in rent because finding a family who could afford a property that three sharers are paying for currently isn't going to be that simple (and the landlord can't risk them taking in a lodger to help with paying for it.)

        When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
        Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

        Comment


          #5
          Originally posted by Goobs27 View Post
          they are a pretty well-known agent so I would be surprised if they make a mistake.
          As above. ROFLMFAO.


          Originally posted by Goobs27 View Post
          I have wasted nearly an entire morning trying to speak to someone
          As you say, it may prove difficult to have a coherent conversation with a sentient human at the LA, but if it was possible for the LL to have such a conversation (and if they wanted to), then it might be worth asking for dispensation for the prevailing tenancy?

          From what has been said, I get the impression that none of the involved parties want, or stand to gain, from ending the current arrangement. Landlord is happy, tenants are happy, local authority probably don't want to see or be the cause of someone being evicted. This is an unintended consequence of a change to regulations mid-tenancy. Landlord is doing the right thing, legally speaking, by responding to that change. Both LL and tenants bear the consequences.
          There is a fine line between irony and stupidity. If I say something absurd please assume that I am being facetious.

          Comment


            #6
            Thanks for all your replies and I hoped that the landlord would have been prepared to pay the cost too but apparently not. The agent actually asked the tenants if they wanted to pay for the licence which I suspect is contrary to the tenant fee act so perhaps my confidence that they would do things properly was misplaced!

            I think a personal approach to the landlord is the best way forward as the place only has to be empty for two weeks between tenancies for the landlord to lose more than the cost of the licence.

            Comment


              #7
              One thing that has occurred to me is that the landlord may not wish to be licenced for other reasons, either a concern that the property isn't suitable to be an HMO (the rules are more strict than most people realise, licence or not) or a wish not to be identified as a landlord to someone like HMRC.
              When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
              Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

              Comment


                #8
                Yes, there is a lot more involved than the licence fee.

                There is admin, there are compliance requirements, there are inspections, there may be privacy concerns (HMO register), there may be mortgage or insurance implications. There may be spectacular wait times.

                If the LL does not wish to go the HMO route, that seems rational and understandable.
                There is a fine line between irony and stupidity. If I say something absurd please assume that I am being facetious.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by doobrey View Post
                  If the LL does not wish to go the HMO route, that seems rational and understandable.
                  The landlord has already "gone the HMO route", as they have an HMO already.
                  They possibly have an aversion to going the "legal and proper" HMO route.
                  When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
                  Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

                  Comment


                    #10
                    This is another case of overregulation causing problems for everyone and the only way to combat it is to make enough noise the council and government listen. The council's strapped for cash and LLs are an easy target. Many of us have been in your son's position and it annoys me so much this is happening.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by jpkeates View Post
                      The landlord has already "gone the HMO route"
                      OP states that it doesn't become a licensable HMO until next month, and LL is taking steps to reduce occupation to a single household in an effort to prevent that from happening.

                      I should perhaps have been more specific / correct and said "licensable HMO".
                      There is a fine line between irony and stupidity. If I say something absurd please assume that I am being facetious.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        The flat is modern with good facilities and all the necessary certificates so I think it would pass an assessment with ease. I had forgotten though that some mortgages will not allow HMOs so perhaps that is the reason? Maybe in future BTL lenders will recognise that a small licensable HMO is a different creature to the 6 bed student houses that they seem to want to avoid.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          A quick look at the Westminster Council rules for licenced HMOs makes me think the landlord might be right!
                          https://www.westminster.gov.uk/house...er-information
                          When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
                          Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Thank you for all your assistance and please can I ask a supplementary question?

                            Assuming you cannot serve a S21 notice in the first 4 months of the tenancy and you also cannot serve a S21 notice if the property requires a licence and doesn't have one then it would appear to leave the landlord with a dilemma if the periods overlap?

                            Interestingly, the agent has also said that if one person moves out then they will charge the tenants for altering the contract which seems rather unreasonable in all the circumstances!

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by Goobs27 View Post
                              Assuming you cannot serve a S21 notice in the first 4 months of the tenancy and you also cannot serve a S21 notice if the property requires a licence and doesn't have one then it would appear to leave the landlord with a dilemma if the periods overlap?
                              It would indeed.


                              One way or another (either for the duration of the tenancy, or just to buy some time) and as per Post #5, I think LL should be requesting an exemption.

                              From Shelter:

                              Where a landlord has either applied for a licence, or for a temporary exemption notice on the basis that they are planning to take steps to ensure that the property will no longer require licensing, there is no restriction on using the section 21 procedure
                              There is a fine line between irony and stupidity. If I say something absurd please assume that I am being facetious.

                              Comment

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